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Triac issues (lots of them)

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It seems to me that one of the DIY types was investigating a range of ST semiconductor production lots for suspected high failure rates. I will say that with controllers going back to 2007, all my triac failures are 2010 and newer. I believe that the shortages of controllers and late shipping in 2011 was documented by LOR to be in part directly related to high failure rates in the triacs. My understanding is that they have taken action to get a better supply. So hopefully we won't see the same issues, or at least not the same rates in the 2012 and newer controllers.

Got so wrapped up in trying to figure this out I almost forgot aboutt this post.. Do you know if this turned out to actually be the issue or was that speculation? If so I will just sigh and move on... I so love a puzzle.. :mellow:

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Jim,

That is very strange.. certainly the normal current useage is not the issue.   The fact that the same channel went is really weird given the circumstances.

I wonder what the heck is happening to all the triacs...  If LOR repaired that unit I am guessing they didn't use triacs from the same batch as the manufactiring process since those are not done in the US as I understand it. (unless the assembly house sent them to LOR).  The output power circuit is standard stuff and not unlike hundres of other manufacturers of various items...  

Does anyone know if LOR has done anything to look into this?  Or is this a pretty minor issue percentage wise overall?  If they have looked into it, did they find anything????

It really doesn't matter that muich to me in the scheme of things either except it is a puzzle wanting to be solved.. B)

 

Yes, load is def not an issue.  I don't think I am pulling more than 2 amps on the entire controller.  I was really surprised by the failure since I have 7 older PC controllers that have been flawless.  This particular controller was ordered during that period when LOR had so much trouble with delivery, as I recall based on a known triac issue.   LIke I said in my first post, it is more trouble to dismantle the controller and pull the dongles than to just remove the channel completely from my configuration.

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Well............ the Help Desk is NO help with this issue. Told them I did a reset, and what did they tell me to , "lets do a controller reset this should fix your problem" Ticket Closed.

Is the help desk not authorized to ...nevermind.

 

I'm a few days late here, but I wanted to comment on this.

 

Whenever we get a 'stuck channel' request, we ask the user to do some troubleshooting.  Depending on what the customer told us, we have 1 of 2 paths to follow:  One is the 'Reset' path, the other is a little more in-depth taking into account the weirdness that some LEDs can have with controllers.  It too has a 'reset' section.

 

Many times, what a customer thinks 'resets' a controller is not what actually does the reset.  For example. customers think that simply unplugging a controller will 'reset' it.  That's why (typically) a stuck channel request always starts with a request to 'reset' the unit first.  You would be surprised how many times this works - and it saves you a bunch of $ by not sending back perfectly working units.

 

The 'Closed' thing throws a lot of people.  When you have a bunch of tickets bouncing around  it makes it very difficult for us to keep them sorted.  That's why whenever we reply to a ticket, we close it.  In our signatures you'll see something that says something along the lines of 'This ticket is not considered closed but has been marked closed to clear our desk.".  As soon as you reply to it, it re-opens and appears on the correct persons queue.  

 

I looked at about 10 days worth of tickets starting backwards from 1/19, and couldn't find any that stood out and appeared to be yours.  What was your ticket number so I can have a look?

 

Edit:  Never Mind, I found it.  

 

On Fri 1/18 @ 12:13A you opened the ticket and let us know you were using incans - which means you don't need the 'long form instructions'.  You did say that with the forum's help you did the reset.  However, because it wasn't someone from the company that told you how to do it, we sent the 'short form' reset instructions to ensure you did the reset correctly.  

 

On Fri 1/18 @ 8 AM we sent those reset instructions.  

 

On Sat 1/19 @ 2:30P You replied back that you did the reset again and still had a problem.

 

On Sun 1/20 @ 8 AM, we replied back that we send those instructions to everyone to make sure the reset is done correctly, and we gave you the repair options, including an RMA if you wanted to send it back.

 

on Tues 1/22 @ 11:30 PM you asked that we send you the parts to fix the unit yourself.

 

on Wed 1/23 @ noon, we sent the parts.

 

To me, that looks like everything worked exactly how it should have.  

 

Just as a follow up, have you received the parts yet and if so, did they fix the issue?

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Mike, was there a manufacturing issue with triac?   is that real or a myth?

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Mike, was there a manufacturing issue with triac?   is that real or a myth?

 

I'm not on the hardware side, so I don't know the answer to that question.  

 

Since this was my first real 'season' working the help desk, I don't have any thing to compare to either.  That means I can't even say if the number of requests we've had is out of the norm.  

 

I also haven't heard anything from Dan, Engineering, or repairs about bad triacs.  I'm sure if there was a pattern to it, someone would be able to pick up on it.  

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Mike,

Any chance you can get us an answer to that or perhaps have someone from hardware post it here?  It would be good to know..

 

Craig

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Got you covered, Dan --> Cleaned up:

-----------------------

There was a question "was there a manufacturing issue with triacs? is that real or a myth?"... In 2011 we did have a bad batch of triacs. We learned a lot from that experience and have implemented procedures to test batches. We built a 240 amp testing rig that can push triacs through an extreamly harsh test and is used to verify batches of triacs. </span>

We are constantly looking to make the controllers more robust. We use multiple manufactures with duplication so in the event there is an issue with one of the manufactures we have backup. Most of the cards we sell are made in the USA. Most of the parts for LOR products are purchased directly by LOR and we always use highly recognized distributors and in some cases we purchase directly from the component manufacture. All of our manufactures are certified and we do not see any significant difference in quality from the cards delivered from these manufactures. 

Triac failure has been the number one issue with LOR controllers since day one. About half the time we can determine that the failure was caused by an external problem and the remainder of the issues we are not sure. For example we had one fellow who was complaining that triacs were failing all over his display, no special lights, no heavy loads, etc... The problem was determined to be little worms that were crawling up into the warm controllers and shorting out the circuits. 

Worms and insects, little lizards are commonly found fried in controllers that are sent back for repair. But with all that said, there are cases were we simply are not sure why the triacs failed. As far as bad batches of triacs, as mentioned earlier, that did happen one time and we have testing procedures in place now to test the batches, look for bad quality, counterfeit parts, etc. 

When we designed the Gen3 cards, one of the criteria was to increase robustness, we looked at the most common failures and attempted to reduce the chance of failure at those points. One point was the triacs. We moved from a 16amp rated triac to a much more expensive 25 amp rated triac. The result is that we have seen a reduction in triac failures with G3 controllers. The second most common failure was RJ45 connectors that were pulled loose. By reversing the mounting orientation of these connectors on the Gen3 controllers there has been a reduction in those failures as well. 

We are constantly looking to make the controllers more robust. We use multiple manufactures with duplication in who manufactures individual components so in the event one manufacture has an issue we have backup. Most of the cards we sell are made in the USA. Most of the parts for LOR products are purchased directly by LOR and we always use highly recognized distributors and in some cases we purchase directly with the component manufacture. All of our manufactures are certified and we do not see any significant difference in quality from these manufactures.

Regardless of where a component is manufactured, when it is delivered to LOR it is tested / packaged / re-tested... For example for a CTPC16P-ReadyToGO, We get the CTB16PC card from one of the two manufactures that build them for us. We program and test the card to ensure all 16 channels are operating. We then install the card into the plastic enclosure and connect all the wires. Then the controller is plugged into a test fixture where it can be load tested. We verify all labeled outputs (1 - 16) are on the correct channel. Each channel is load tested and full banks of 8 are load tested. We test the unit with a high pot tester to look for shorts between high/low voltage and ground. 

Back to triac failure, we do not know of any particular issue that causes triacs to fail.with common incandescent and led Christmas lighting. We do know that there is a certain load that appear to damage triacs. These lighting products contain a type of switching power supply and are most commonly used in 240 volt countries where line voltage is not used on led and most incandescent Christmas lights. Note: (we became aware of this this issue this season and are not sure of the cause yet or if it is the triacs being damaged)

------------ When a triac is damaged -------

We will of course fix controllers under warranty at no charge including shipping,. We will repair controllers that are no longer under warranty for free with the user covering the shipping charges. Regardless of the age of a controller, we will send triacs at no charge to a domestic user who needs them.

Edited by LORAdmin
Cleaned up.

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Wow Dan,  That was quite a read with all that HTML junk.  :P

 

I think that answers all my questions... So great to have a company be up front about things that just happen.. My hat is off to LOR for being upfront and concise...

 

I judge a company not by whether they have a problem or issue, but rather by how they handle that problem or issue..  LOR Rocks!!

 

The bad thing is now I have no puzzle to solve.. sniff sniff.. :huh:

 

Craig 

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Dan,

 

Thank you for providing the insight into the continuous improvement that goes into your product design, as well as the efforts you take in production assurance.  It just reinforces what many of us have always said about this being the company for those looking for a solid product that doesn't require DIY electronics skills to use. 

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I'm a few days late here, but I wanted to comment on this.

 

Whenever we get a 'stuck channel' request, we ask the user to do some troubleshooting.  Depending on what the customer told us, we have 1 of 2 paths to follow:  One is the 'Reset' path, the other is a little more in-depth taking into account the weirdness that some LEDs can have with controllers.  It too has a 'reset' section.

 

Many times, what a customer thinks 'resets' a controller is not what actually does the reset.  For example. customers think that simply unplugging a controller will 'reset' it.  That's why (typically) a stuck channel request always starts with a request to 'reset' the unit first.  You would be surprised how many times this works - and it saves you a bunch of $ by not sending back perfectly working units.

 

The 'Closed' thing throws a lot of people.  When you have a bunch of tickets bouncing around  it makes it very difficult for us to keep them sorted.  That's why whenever we reply to a ticket, we close it.  In our signatures you'll see something that says something along the lines of 'This ticket is not considered closed but has been marked closed to clear our desk.".  As soon as you reply to it, it re-opens and appears on the correct persons queue.  

 

I looked at about 10 days worth of tickets starting backwards from 1/19, and couldn't find any that stood out and appeared to be yours.  What was your ticket number so I can have a look?

 

Edit:  Never Mind, I found it.  

 

On Fri 1/18 @ 12:13A you opened the ticket and let us know you were using incans - which means you don't need the 'long form instructions'.  You did say that with the forum's help you did the reset.  However, because it wasn't someone from the company that told you how to do it, we sent the 'short form' reset instructions to ensure you did the reset correctly.  

 

On Fri 1/18 @ 8 AM we sent those reset instructions.  

 

On Sat 1/19 @ 2:30P You replied back that you did the reset again and still had a problem.

 

On Sun 1/20 @ 8 AM, we replied back that we send those instructions to everyone to make sure the reset is done correctly, and we gave you the repair options, including an RMA if you wanted to send it back.

 

on Tues 1/22 @ 11:30 PM you asked that we send you the parts to fix the unit yourself.

 

on Wed 1/23 @ noon, we sent the parts.

 

To me, that looks like everything worked exactly how it should have.  

 

Just as a follow up, have you received the parts yet and if so, did they fix the issue?

Let me put it this way. If the responder to my ticket had added what was in the message on 1/20 to the message I received on 1/18, I would not have become so frustrated.

 

NO , I haven't received any parts. Mail must be a bit slow this week. :(

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Wow Dan,  That was quite a read with all that HTML junk.  :P

 

I think that answers all my questions... So great to have a company be up front about things that just happen.. My hat is off to LOR for being upfront and concise...

 

I judge a company not by whether they have a problem or issue, but rather by how they handle that problem or issue..  LOR Rocks!!

 

The bad thing is now I have no puzzle to solve.. sniff sniff.. :huh:

 

Craig 

I'm sure there will be more "puzzles" for ya. :)

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Got you covered, Dan --> Cleaned up:

-----------------------

There was a question "was there a manufacturing issue with triacs? is that real or a myth?"... In 2011 we did have a bad batch of triacs. We learned a lot from that experience and have implemented procedures to test batches. We built a 240 amp testing rig that can push triacs through an extreamly harsh test and is used to verify batches of triacs. </span>

We are constantly looking to make the controllers more robust. We use multiple manufactures with duplication so in the event there is an issue with one of the manufactures we have backup. Most of the cards we sell are made in the USA. Most of the parts for LOR products are purchased directly by LOR and we always use highly recognized distributors and in some cases we purchase directly from the component manufacture. All of our manufactures are certified and we do not see any significant difference in quality from the cards delivered from these manufactures. 

Triac failure has been the number one issue with LOR controllers since day one. About half the time we can determine that the failure was caused by an external problem and the remainder of the issues we are not sure. For example we had one fellow who was complaining that triacs were failing all over his display, no special lights, no heavy loads, etc... The problem was determined to be little worms that were crawling up into the warm controllers and shorting out the circuits. 

Worms and insects, little lizards are commonly found fried in controllers that are sent back for repair. But with all that said, there are cases were we simply are not sure why the triacs failed. As far as bad batches of triacs, as mentioned earlier, that did happen one time and we have testing procedures in place now to test the batches, look for bad quality, counterfeit parts, etc. 

When we designed the Gen3 cards, one of the criteria was to increase robustness, we looked at the most common failures and attempted to reduce the chance of failure at those points. One point was the triacs. We moved from a 16amp rated triac to a much more expensive 25 amp rated triac. The result is that we have seen a reduction in triac failures with G3 controllers. The second most common failure was RJ45 connectors that were pulled loose. By reversing the mounting orientation of these connectors on the Gen3 controllers there has been a reduction in those failures as well. 

We are constantly looking to make the controllers more robust. We use multiple manufactures with duplication in who manufactures individual components so in the event one manufacture has an issue we have backup. Most of the cards we sell are made in the USA. Most of the parts for LOR products are purchased directly by LOR and we always use highly recognized distributors and in some cases we purchase directly with the component manufacture. All of our manufactures are certified and we do not see any significant difference in quality from these manufactures.

Regardless of where a component is manufactured, when it is delivered to LOR it is tested / packaged / re-tested... For example for a CTPC16P-ReadyToGO, We get the CTB16PC card from one of the two manufactures that build them for us. We program and test the card to ensure all 16 channels are operating. We then install the card into the plastic enclosure and connect all the wires. Then the controller is plugged into a test fixture where it can be load tested. We verify all labeled outputs (1 - 16) are on the correct channel. Each channel is load tested and full banks of 8 are load tested. We test the unit with a high pot tester to look for shorts between high/low voltage and ground. 

Back to triac failure, we do not know of any particular issue that causes triacs to fail.with common incandescent and led Christmas lighting. We do know that there is a certain load that appear to damage triacs. These lighting products contain a type of switching power supply and are most commonly used in 240 volt countries where line voltage is not used on led and most incandescent Christmas lights. Note: (we became aware of this this issue this season and are not sure of the cause yet or if it is the triacs being damaged)

------------ When a triac is damaged -------

We will of course fix controllers under warranty at no charge including shipping,. We will repair controllers that are no longer under warranty for free with the user covering the shipping charges. Regardless of the age of a controller, we will send triacs at no charge to a domestic user who needs them.

Thanks Dan, Question is,,,,can we replace our damaged triac's , one at a time , as needed, without doing any other modifications to the boards with the 25 amp ones ? (GEN 1 & GEN 2 )

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On a related note, Elation made a single channel DMX light dimmer a few years ago with a 16 amp triac, and had so many problems that they redesigned the dimmer to use a 40 amp version, with excellent success. I've heard the failure rates with the 40 amp version are almost nil.

 

But the 40 amp version is physically larger and more expensive than the 25 amp version.

 

I've used these DMX dimmers on larger indoor displays that need 800-1000 watts per channel.

 

And use the LOR iDMX1000 quite successfully to drive them.

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You should be able to swap 25amp for 16 amp.  From the specs I saw they are physically the same and the drive specs are not an issue. You should have no issue replacing them one at a time. 

 

But.... I am not LOR.. so my info is unofficial.



I'm sure there will be more "puzzles" for ya. :)

I think I must have watched too many episodes of "House".  :P

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We would like to be in a position where there were no failures and the equipment was still affordable. Although there are many folks that have encountered one or more triacs failures, there are many more who have never encountered a triac failure
 

We have noted that failures sometimes cluster and we do not understand why. We will see a user with 20 controllers run a year with no triacs failures. We will see another customer with 20 controllers see 10 triac failures in a year. Both users seem to be using the same type of lights and same loads on the lights (on average) and neither seems to be treating the controllers better or worse than the others. .
 

We do know that people living in warmer climate where there are lighing storms have a higher equipment failure rate as the long extension cords can pick up electrical charge even with fairly remote lighting strikes. That is the only environmental relationship we have seen to failures.
 

As far as replacing all the 16 amp triacs for 25 amp tiracs on a card, I would be hesitant as there is a risk of damaging the card during the process and that risk may outweigh any benefit. The 16 amp triacs have worked reliably for up to 10 years on cards and are not them selves a weak choice. .
 

Believe it or not there was a group (not a private user) who mounted their controllers upside down in a mega tree. That way the dangle cords were pointing up and made it easier to plug things in. Their failure rate was rather high and this created a cluster of failures. Now I am highly doubtful that anyone here has done that but there may be some more subtle issues that even I would do that could cause problems.
 

For the record we saw triac failure on controllers sold this year less than  0.01%. As mentioned we see clusters of failures with where the local failure rate is higher. We will continue to improve things and to get a better understanding of the clustering phenomenon, which certainly could be a manufacturing problem or a user sentimental problem.

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Haven't had any issues with my Gen 3 boards (knock on wood).  3 of my Gen2 boards have/had triac issues.  No biggie.  i bought extra triacs and can replace them easily enough.

 

I'm slowly replacing my Gen2 boards anyhow.  Can't say enough good things about the Gen3 boards.  not sure what more improvements can be made.  At least not for the average user.

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I have a total of 8 LOR controllers on which 5 are Gen2 and 3 are Gen3. I have had no problems to date except for a erratic channel on a Gen2 controller which was promptly repaired by LOR. However, if I controller is installed outside, it is protected against direct rain and snow. And, all circuits are GFCI protected.


I saw a couple of links for Gen2 Triacs earlier in this series of threads. Can someone send out a link to the Gen3 Triacs? I want to stock up with a couple of each just in case I need to perform a quick fix.



 

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Ok,

FINALLY have mine on the work bench. Before I tear into it...

With nothing being sent to the controller....

1 Channel flickers a little

1 Channel is stuck at 50%

Sounds like triacs????

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Have 4 2010 CTB16PC Controllers and have only had one Traic failure in one of them.   And they have been left ON in rain, cold {no snow in Florida} and freezing temps when we've had them, and they were all on a GFCI circuit.  Had a power glitch from the power company one night, tripped the GFCI and shut everything down.    And I believe that is what may have blown the triac on my controller.   Just lucky it was only one that blew and not any others.

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Ok,

FINALLY have mine on the work bench. Before I tear into it...

With nothing being sent to the controller....

1 Channel flickers a little

1 Channel is stuck at 50%

Sounds like triacs????

Hello???

Buehler????

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Stuck at 50 sounds like a triac.  Flickers a little is not one of the common documented failure modes for the triacs. It might also be the opto triac. But once you are in there, you might as well change both triacs, then go from there if the flickering one still has issues.  But always start with a reset...

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Ok. I will try another reset. Did reset it several times during the season, but honestly...not sure if the reset took. Wouldn't that be nice if it fixed it!

 

There is a radio shop in downtown ATL. Probably will pick up a hand full of optos and the triacs.

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Reset will retain unit ID.  For a Gen2 controllers, the key thing is to see the fast blink when you power up without the jumper, or with the unit ID dials set to 00.  Not sure the key thing to look for on Gen3.  Just want to be careful that we aren't talking people into changing triacs without having tried the reset.

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I had a flickering issue on one controller that I resolved by reinstalling the firmware (same version). At the time, I didn’t think to try a reset first. So I can’t say if a simple reset would have resolved the issue.

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